How to approach moving for a job abroad

I remember it as if it was yesterday — having a chat with a friend of mine who was a Product Manager who had an offer on the table for Sankt Petersburg. I was super happy for him and then he turns around: “Wouldn’t it be cool if you got a job somewhere warm and then we could visit each other…we have the cold and the warm!” As we say in Romanian, his mouth was golden. A few days later I got an email from a very nice Spanish lady for a job in Malta and whether I would be interested. I turned around to my friend instantly and told him “I think you might get your wish!”

When this happens to a person with relative to no commitments life-wise and you’re something like 23–24, it’s a no-brainer that it will be impossible to miss that experience. When you’re over 30 though and newly engaged to be married, this becomes a different conversation. You have the excitement of the opportunity on one hand and all the things it offers you that you would get at home in exceptional circumstances, and the personal priorities on the other, the people that you love and the commitment that you have.

Today’s social economic and political international scene has become a fast game changer for many life plans. And as the saying goes — the only constant is change — we must also be ready to embrace change, but we must do so while having the correct and honest picture of why we are doing these changes.

Whether it’s because we need to find another social political system that is aligned to our way of thinking and living, whether it’s because it offers financial rewards and a power of purchase that we would otherwise not afford or professional and intellectual satisfaction, the possibility to chase our dreams in a way in which at home we wouldn’t be able to — we need to be honest with ourselves as to what are the things we are seeking out. Why? Because leaving home is a trade-off — win some, lose some.

If you want to make everything work, you need to be aware of what are essential things, the important things for happiness and focus on those. And impulse makes it all so easy to lose focus! Equally, you must also have a clear idea as to what are the essential conditions to move and start something elsewhere — do you need a culture that is similar to yours, do you want to feel like at home or it’s something you can live without, do you want sun and relaxation or you want to roll up your sleeves and do something epic or at least feel like it. What about your friends? Do feel comfortable leaving what is known and comfortable? All of these are important questions we need to ask ourselves and consider before taking on something that seems to be all that we’ve been dreaming of.

If I could offer 4 pieces of advice to people facing the same choices and pondering on the same opportunities, through my own experience but also of others, it would be this:

  1. Accept or decline the opportunity for what it is, don’t run from something else

It is inevitable that at one point or another the current job will no longer satisfy you. And this can happen for many different reasons. Or the social, political or economic climate change starts to impact your quality of life. So then you start focusing your energy on ways out. Outside life threatening situations of course, that is a dangerous path to go on — because it will focus you on getting away and not finding something that is actually fulfilling. Any option becomes a good option. Under the impulse of anger and frustration we don’t consider all the facets of the change, we only see what we like and that’s enough.

You need to look at the proposal as if everything else was super satisfying. If everything else was ok, and this job offer would come up…would you take it? Is it aligned with your professional projections, with your growth plan. Is that work culture aligned to your own? Is it ethically what you want? Are expectations clear and agreed on from both sides?

It is a difficult exercise to do, because no matter what you will still be biased when you make the choice.

And in part, I was biased as well when I was considering taking the job in Malta — the recent disastrous elections, a new health condition that I was facing that would never go away, an environment that was making me somewhat jaded. I felt like I needed a change, I needed to be inspired again and get my positivity back up. Luckily, I realized early on that I was falling down the rabbit hole and started to look at this for what it was — the opportunity to get into a different industry, a different multinational work culture and the chance to do many things I hadn’t done before in a short span of time — which for everyone who knows my hyperactive self, that’s always a big plus.

2. Don’t make plans in advance — slide into it

At first moving in for the job is like going on vacay a bit — travelling abroad, all the things you want to see and do….experience the places to the fullest and make the most of it. So people tend to start looking up things to do and see, filling up their calendar for a month’s time before they even get there. And then between work and settling in and the new calendar, the pressure’s mounting to do all of it so you don’t waste time.

Stop! Some orientation is healthy of course and needed but it’s always good to leave yourself open for the unforeseen and one also needs to rest! People who have relocated abroad more than once know it can take up to 3 months to be fully set up, have all the papers in order, a place to stay, local bank accounts (but hey, now there’s Revolut!), this that and the other.

If you take things as they come, you will never be frustrated with the things that you planned but didn’t do. Just like with the job, set yourself the right expectations and accommodate self care too!

3. If the context changes, make sure it doesn’t change you and your priorities!

We have a saying in Romanian: “The plans you made at home don’t match with the ones at the sale fair.” Which is to say, not everything will happen like you’re planning to despite the best of planning. Things that are out of our control always happen, that you cannot foresee. One can try to adapt and if it’s nothing major than that’s a good exercise for personal growth as well.

The problem comes when you start feeling like the changes are changing you — if you start questioning your methods, feeling uncomfortable with what you’re doing or if the whole thing just isn’t what you expected — if it simply doesn’t jive with who you are…let it go! Always remember why you took the opportunity, always challenge if those reasons are still valid. And be true to who you are and what makes you happy. And I’m not talking about the job itself here, maybe the environment wasn’t all what you had thought out to be and you’re finding yourself feeling lonely and bored.

That’s why the first point is super important. It minimizes the chances of you reaching this point. But as I said before, things always happen and the only constant is change — it just depends on how much it aligns with who we are.

4. Have a strong support system

Adjusting to a completely new environment no matter how familiar to your own can be energy draining and stressing at times. You’ve got settling in in the new job itself and then all the administrative issues one needs to sort out which can take months.You might not have friends yet where you’re going so you’re in the process of seeing what’s what.

It’s always good to find yourself a support system, a sounding board for your thoughts, experiences and struggles. Whether it’s your family or friends…or both, or even your new colleagues, it’s good to have a constant in which you can ground yourself and always revisit for comfort. I’ve been lucky to get all 3, but it doesn’t need to be — having that one person that’s super close is more than enough. After all, more is not always better :)

My first adventure has now ended and Malta has become another home next to London to which I will happily return every time and enjoy the smell of the air and lots of Aperols with my friends on the rocks looking at the sea..

But another home is growing on me and a new adventure begins. I won’t tell you more but I will leave the picture of a guide I bought 4 years ago when along with my husband and my friends, i went trekking along the fjords.

The world is such a small place after all and so many things go around and come around, I think I will always be in wonder.

My new adventure begins today! ;)

PS: This article is dedicated to my former company and awesome colleagues and friends and most importantly to my husband who has constantly been my rock and my support system. Without him I would have never had the confidence to fly off as I did.

Do you have other thoughts to share? Looking forward to them.

Growth Hacker and Essentialist, #Performance and all around Digital Enthusiast, user behaviour analyzer. Love reading, travelling, arts & all things Japanese.